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A Magazine for Sheffield

Stories of Sheffield: Moses Edward Yeardley

A look back at the life of Ted Yeardley, one of Sheffield’s forgotten local heroes.


Ted Yeardley (far-right).

Edward ‘Ted’ Yeardley was born in Darnall, Sheffield in November 1901 to steelworker Arthur and his wife Fanny. He was one of seven children and spent a happy childhood swimming the canals of Attercliffe and Darnall. Life changed dramatically when The Great War broke out and his elder brother William left to join the Navy in order to assist with the war effort. Another elder brother, Harry, was already in the army when the war started, but he was demobilised in 1916, possibly to be stationed elsewhere due to his knowledge of mining.

In December 1916, tragedy struck for the Yeardley family as William died at sea on the HMS Negro. At the start of the First World War, ten M-class destroyers were ordered in anticipation of the losses to come, with HMS Negro being one of them. The ship was lost when it collided with the Parker-class flotilla leader HMS Hostel, which it was in the process of escorting back to Scapa Flow in Scotland following steering failure. 51 of HMS Negro’s crew were lost, but thanks to the crew of fellow ships Marmion and Marvel, only four of Hostel’s crew died.

The death of his brother pushed Ted to join the war effort and he ran away to join the Navy at 15 years old. In 1917, he was deployed to the Black Sea as part of the Allied forces’ support of the White Movement following the Russian Revolution and ensuing Civil War. Throughout the war the Allies had been providing economic and technical support to Russia.

Following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the October Revolution, it became clear that greater intervention was needed. For Ted, this would have likely meant being on one of over 20 flotilla ships sent in as part of Operation Red Trek. The campaign was key in enabling the establishment of Estonia and Latvia as independent states. However, it failed in one of its main aims, to gain control of Petrograd (now St Petersburg). During the intervention, a total of 112 British servicemen were lost and in the end, the Allies were forced to withdraw, leaving the White Russian Army to face the Red Army, to whom they quickly succumbed in December 1919.

Between the wars Ted remained in the Royal Navy Reserves as well as returning to his family’s steel working roots. He also spent a while as a self-employed chimney sweep until his wartime dermatitis flared up, forcing him to give it up. It was also during the interwar years that Ted met and married his first wife Alice, with whom he had a daughter, Joyce. Alice sadly died of lung cancer early on in the Second World War.

During the Second World War, Ted was once again called into action with the Royal Navy. Throughout the war he was stationed in a number of places; from Glasgow minesweepers prepared the way for the Arctic Convoys moving between UK and Soviet ports, with Murmansk being one of the most visited, hence the nickname ‘Murmansk Runs’. He was later based on the Isle of Sheppy, off the coast of Kent, and later at Canvey Island in London, where he met his second wife, Ethel.

The most heroic of Ted's duties in the Second World War was the part he played in the Dunkirk Evacuation. Assigned to a small boat usually used on the Thames, known to the men as a ‘Dutch Kowl’, the Dunkirk evacuations were more eventful for Ted than most. Unbeknownst to him, his younger brother Thomas Reginald Yeardley, or ‘Reg’, was one of the soldiers being rescued from the beaches that day. The evacuation of Dunkirk followed the Allies’ defeat at the Battle of France in which the Nazis conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and allied soldiers were left cut off and surrounded by German troops. Over eight days, a fleet of over 800 vessels, military and civilian, rescued nearly 340,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk.

In a further bizarre twist, at one point during the evacuation Ted gave some of his clothing to fellow personnel. Soon after he found himself apprehended and arrested on suspicion of being a Fifth Columnist, essentially a saboteur, leaving his Captain to get him out of trouble. As with all Dunkirk Veterans, Ted was given a medal and scroll from the Mayor of Dunkirk for his bravery, in addition to the standard medals awarded.

Throughout the war, military personnel were often reassigned to where they were needed. For Ted this meant doing a stint firefighting in London, which is how he met his second wife. Ethel Samson worked at a nearby hospital and was the first Yorkshire lass he’d come across since he’d moved to London. Ted and Ethel were married in the famous Caxton Hall in London in 1941, before moving back to Sheffield at the end of the war.

Following his demobilisation, Ted moved to Shiregreen, took up a job at Firth Brown Steel Works and welcomed a daughter, Wilma, in 1950. In his spare time Ted could be found frequenting the Shiregreen Hotel and Ecclesfield Working Men’s Club. He was also a member of Sheffield’s branch of the Civil Defence at a time where many, including the Civil Defence, were preparing for the prospect of World War Three between the USA and USSR.

In the later years of his career, Ted moved from Firth Brown’s to Arthur Lee’s to be closer to home, and once he retired he dedicated more time to his hobbies. Ted had always enjoyed fishing and his go-to local spot was the pond behind Ecclesfield WMC. He also organised and took part in competitions at the Shiregreen Hotel. Aside from fishing, Ted spent his time gardening, woodworking and he always made sure to represent his comrades at Veterans and Remembrance Day events, his medals pride of place.

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